Pursuing e-learning in manufacturing

The only way manufacturing companies can continuously train employees in a cost-efficient way in the new digital era is e-learning, says Arthur D Little in its latest report

01 December 2016

Industrial leaders are pursuing varieties of global transformation initiatives driven by digitalisation. E-learning is one of the key elements when it comes to scaling up these initiatives, enabling fast and efficient capability building among the workforce, and thereby ensuring fast payback times for corporate investments.

E-learning leverages slide shows, videos, gamification and simulation to create interactive discussions and knowledge sharing in digital format. It is a quick and flexible way to train a large number of employees, independent of physical location and time, and create attractive opportunities to effectively drive changes within an organisation. By using interactive quizzes and tracking methods, e-learning has been shown to increase motivation and learning engagement while making it possible to follow up employees’ results, ensuring everyone completes their training modules and gains the essential knowledge. Additionally, with digital material it is easier to maintain and make central changes to the learning material compared to traditional non-digital formats, keeping it updated at all times.

One form of e-learning is massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are online courses with unlimited participation and open access via the Internet. Participants can be from both inside and outside the organisation. In addition to traditional course material such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students and teachers.



A key question when having information to convey is which method is the most suitable. As methods have different advantages and disadvantages, the most efficient option clearly depends on the situation – and, in particular, the piece of information. Arthur D Little has developed a framework with two key parameters for selecting which method to use for conveying information: criticality, meaning both how important the information is and the number of affected people; and complexity, meaning how complex it is to grasp and understand. 

For information with low criticality and low complexity, affected parties can simply be informed (for instance, by e-mail). If the information has low criticality but high complexity, it is appropriate to make the information easily accessible, for example, by making it available on the company intranet. Information with low complexity and high criticality needs to be actively communicated to the target audience and combined with follow-up activities. Information with both high criticality and high complexity needs to be taught to the target group in order to ensure that it is fully understood and grasped.

E-learning is an excellent substitute for physical training unless the information has both very high criticality and very high complexity. In this situation physical training is unbeatable, as physical presence enables complete customization, which is required to convey this type of information.



Within the manufacturing industry there are several beneficial applications for e-learning to train people and drive change. Potential target groups are internal work force, customers and partners, as described below.

Training of the internal workforce, both blue collar and white collar, is suitable when launching new processes or products. E-learning is also valuable for sharing knowledge within the company. 

E-learning is a powerful tool to help customers realiae the full potential of the offered products and services throughout the product life cycle. Arthur D Little’s experience is that customer satisfaction will increase, and that it strengthens the manufacturer’s relationship with its customers. One example of a manufacturing company providing e-learning for its customers is Sandvik Coromant, a global supplier of tools, tooling solutions, and know-how to the metalworking industry.

For partners, such as service providers, component suppliers and maintenance companies, e-learning is an efficient option for continuous knowledge transfer. Supporting these actors is a powerful way to improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs throughout the value chain.



Arthur D Little has identified four key success factors when implementing e-learning:

• Develop a clear strategy covering when and for which types of information e-learning should be used. As part of the strategy development process it is crucial to investigate problems the organisation experiences with current learning practices; 

• Ensure user-friendly interfaces in order to simplify usage and continuous updating of the learning material.

• Apply usage incentives and follow-up systems to make sure e-learning is prioritised among the employees. It is powerful to develop courses for specific roles, as well as to implement certifications, and  

• Align with existing training activities and knowledge management systems. Start with a list of e-learning priority areas focusing on “must-have” functions rather than “nice-to-have” ones.

The report has been written by Niklas Brundin, Wolf-Dieter Hoppe, Johan Treutiger, Carl Reiman and Caroline Dedering at Arthur D. Little.

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